Come from Away blew Melbourne audiences away back when it began performances in July 2019.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the production was forced to stop in March of 2020, and plans for a tour were pushed back. Starting January 19th, Come from Away will be back up and running in Melbourne, touring to Brisbane and Sydney in March and June respectively. Until you get your chance to see this heart-warming show, this article will give you everything you need to know!
Come from Away was created and written by husband and wife David Hein and Irene Sankoff. The basic plot is based on the true story of what happened to other planes trying to land in New York during the 9/11 attacks. The musical follows thirty-eight planes full of approximately seven thousand people as they land in a little town called Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, which was populated by just under nine thousand people at the time. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, a lot of the passengers from these planes went back to Gander to meet up with those who helped them during that time. Irene and David also joined those who traveled to Gander and it was during this trip that they began a lot of their research into the people involved in this historic event.
“We wanted to tell sixteen-thousand stories in a hundred-minute musical with twelve actors…Every character that you see was inspired by a real interview we had, or several interviews that we had.” – David Hein and Irene Sankoff
Every character in the show is based off a real living person or people that David and Irene met during the anniversary trip. This includes everyone from the town mayor Claude, to the manager of the animal shelter Bonnie, to the town constable Oz, along with the rest of the characters. One of the standouts, however, is Beverley Bass who was a real American Airlines pilot and the very first female captain. Beverley has a signature song in the show titled “Me and the Sky” where she sings about how she became a captain, the prejudice she faced, and how she started off by earning $5 an hour flying dead bodies for a mortician in Fort Worth, Texas at 21 years old. Overall, however, there is no one star of the show. Every character is weighted equally and given equal amounts of story time, which gives Come from Away a very unique feel and helps to ground the show in reality.
One of the most captivating parts of the show is the stage direction. So much so that the show won Best Direction of a Musical at the 2017 Tony awards. To begin with, every actor plays multiple different characters. As confusing as you may think this would be, it is brilliantly executed by having the actors use various different accents and small costume pieces such as certain jackets or hats for different characters. The staging is also fairly simple yet captivating, constituting of some chairs and tables which are constantly being moved by the cast to create various sets and locations.
“It’s about seeing this ensemble do this amazing magic trick on stage every night of taking 12 chairs and 2 tables and turning them into legion halls and busses and airplanes.”– David Hein
To read more about what the creators of the show have to say, make sure to check out Gabi’s interview with David and Irene.
Another interesting stage direction in the show is having the band on stage with the actors as opposed to in the pit below the stage. This is frequently becoming a common trend in new musicals where the band will blend on stage with the performing cast, acting almost as live scenery. You can also see this being done in other musicals such as Waitress or Hadestown, creating a fuller more captivating performance by adding to the overall world you see on stage.
Bands and orchestras, including the one in Come from Away, are also starting to include more exotic and unique instruments suited to the culture or ethnicity being portrayed on stage. In Come from Away these authentic instruments include an accordion, harmonium, Irish flute, various fiddles and guitars, and more which are all commonly used in Newfoundland. Other musicals such as The Band’s Visit are also innovating the typical musical style by creating music inspired by Middle Eastern sounds and instruments. These innovations in musical theatre are bringing a new sense of authenticity to the sound of the shows, which is becoming increasingly important in an age where truth and accurate representation is revered.
Overall, Come from Away is a feel-good, heart wrenching, and educational musical. There is also a potential film adaptation in the works by Irene, David and director of the musical Christopher Ashley.
However, no matter which way you end up seeing this show you will come away from it with a new found love for Newfoundland and everyone that lives there.
Come From Away plays at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre until February 28. It then opens at The Lyric Theatre at QPAC in Brisbane from March, and Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from June.